Headaches and Migraines: “Why Do They Happen?”

Headaches and MigrainesLet’s talk about headaches. Ranging from a mid-afternoon head-pounding ache, to an agonizing pain that leaves you sensitive to light and sometimes feeling sick, headaches are something most, if not all of us, have experienced at some point in our life. For some, headaches are a bigger problem and can even affect everyday life, just like Kate who is a patient of mine. Here’s what she wrote in an email to me before she came to see us.

Hi Trupti, I’m 57 and have been suffering from migraines ever since I was a teenager and I’ve never been able to get to the root of the problem. Usually in the past I put my migraines down to stress or a lack of sleep, and then I thought it might be something that I’m eating instead. The thing is, I took away all of the foods that are said to set off headaches like cheese and chocolate…but nothing really changed.

I don’t know if this is true, but I heard once that tension in your shoulders can sometimes bring headaches on. I thought you’d be the best person to ask. Is this right, or am I being silly? I’m tired of getting migraines when I least expect them! It’s awful when they strike in the middle of shopping.” – Kate, 57, Washington DC

Let me tell you now, Kate certainly was right about tension in your shoulders and base of your neck being related to this common problem. And I can imagine you would find it hard to believe me if I told you that 87% of headaches come from tight and tense muscles in your shoulders and neck! You’re not alone. Most people don’t realize that migraines have nothing to do with the foods we eat.

Instead the culprit is often tension that you never even knew existed in your shoulders in the first place. That’s mainly because you’re just so used to it, or because you just brush it off to the side thinking a “stiff neck” just comes as part of the package of getting older. But if I asked you, “Do you ever find yourself resting your head in an awkward position while you’re watching TV? Do you ever lean your head forward when you read? Do you even stick your neck forward when using your phone or computer?” I can bet you answer “Yes.”

All of those things can cause muscles in your neck to become tired, which means one thing: lots of tension! That is exactly what was going on with my patient Kate. For years Kate was working an office job where she spent hours each day leaning her neck forward looking at a computer screen. No wonder why when we helped ease her neck tension, her migraines became fewer and less of a regular occurrence.

So What Can Be Done?

Now I know that if your job requires working on a computer, you’re not going to be able to suddenly stop looking at one. I’m also not going to tell you to stop reading or to never watch TV again. But what I am going to tell you are the three things you can start to do today to help ease neck tension that leads to all sorts of headaches.

1. Be aware of the position of your neck. 

If you notice that your neck is pushed forwards, tuck your chin in towards your neck to help straighten it and put it back into the right position.

2. Relax in a warm bath.

Muscles love to be warm, and warm muscles mean less tension. So run yourself a nice warm bath, lie back and relax.

3. Talk to a specialist at my clinic. 

I have designed a special package especially for migraine and headache sufferers. It’s something called the Headache and Neck Pain Treatment Program that I and a few other physical therapists put together. It’s the perfect combination of massage and gentle posture and neck stabilization exercises in addition to ergonomics coaching. They will help you best manage the stressors to your neck in order to reduce headaches. Give us a call and get started today!

PS – Do you need help NOW? Request a Free Discovery Session with a specialist at my clinic. But please don’t wait. We are getting very busy in the clinic and that means we’re about to be operating on a very strict wait list. CLICK HERE now to get our on schedule before you can’t – serious inquiries only please.

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Trupti Mehta, PT, MS, OCS
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